Managing a WordPress site with multiple authors is not an easy task. If you don’t properly organize your editorial workflow or if you don’t set one up, you’ll end up with an inconsistent publishing schedule and perhaps even low-quality content because there might not be enough time or attention devoted to polishing each article. If you haven’t implemented a WordPress editorial workflow yet, it’s not too late!
Establishing an editorial workflow that flawlessly works for you and your team takes time. You will change and edit it until you find the perfect workflow that fits your team. In fact, if you read an article talking about the best WordPress publishing workflow, don’t just follow it exactly – make alterations to it as you deem necessary. The workflow outlined in that article might be the best for that article author’s team, but it might not work for your team or it might work for your team but there could be better options that can yield better and more efficient results. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to establishing an editorial workflow. Each team is different and each team must have their own workflow crafted for them. Find out which one works best for you and your team and once you’ve found it, stick to it!
Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry, we are going to walk you through a basic, fundamental WordPress workflow management process that you can use as a foundation for a WordPress workflow that’s perfectly suited for your team. Let’s start!
- 1 WordPress User Roles
- 2 Setting Up an Editorial Workflow in WordPress
- 3 Advantages and Limitations of Trello and PublishPress
- 4 Additional Tools
Before we begin, you should have an understanding of WordPress user roles. If you already know these, you can go ahead and skip to the next section.
WordPress did an excellent job of providing us with user roles to make our lives easier. Below is a brief summary of available user roles taken straight from the documentation.
- Super Admin – somebody with access to the site network administration features and all other features.
- Administrator (slug: ‘administrator’) – somebody who has access to all the administration features within a single site.
- Editor (slug: ‘editor’) – somebody who can publish and manage posts including the posts of other users.
- Author (slug: ‘author’) – somebody who can publish and manage their own posts.
- Contributor (slug: ‘contributor’) – somebody who can write and manage their own posts but cannot publish them.
- Subscriber (slug: ‘subscriber’) – somebody who can only manage their profile.
If you want more information about them, you can visit the WordPress Codex.
For a typical single site WordPress, you will have at least one administrator, editor, and author. A contributor isn’t necessary, but if you accept content written by someone outside of your team, you’ll want to give them the contributor role (an example of this is a guest author). I’m pretty sure you already gave proper roles to your team members, but if you haven’t, now is the time.
You might be wondering, “why establish an editorial workflow if it’s just three of us?” Simple. One key to success is the ability to properly plan and organize things. And in my opinion, if you intend to keep your team composed of only three people, you’re not aiming high or far enough. As your website grows, you’ll need to add more people in your team and by having a solid and proven editorial workflow already implemented, everything will be a lot easier.
In this section, we are going to give you a general idea of what an editorial workflow looks like. What we are going to outline here are the fundamentals; the basic building blocks of a complete editorial workflow process. What does it look like? A typical WordPress approval workflow follows this pattern:
- Pitching or brainstorming – before anything else, you need to come up with a topic to write about.
- Assigning a topic to a writer – once a topic has been accepted, an editor or an admin will assign a topic to a writer or a writer can choose which topic he or she wants to take.
- The writer writes the article – the assigned writer will start creating the content.
- The writer submits the article for review – once the writer finishes the article, it will be submitted for review.
- An editor reviews the article and makes necessary edits – an editor will review the article and make necessary edits and changes (grammar, punctuation, etc.) and/or revert the article’s status to “in-progress” (which might happen when there are massive changes to be made). Both the writer and the editor might need to work together closely at this stage to make sure the correct changes are made.
- Publish or schedule the article for publishing – once the article is thoroughly reviewed, it is now published or scheduled for publishing at a later date.
To keep track of these things, you’ll want the help of WordPress plugins and/or other tools like an external website or software. For this article, we’re going to cover both a plugin and an external website that will help you. The first one is a plugin called PublishPress and the second is an external website called Trello.
PublishPress is a fork of Editflow, a plugin whose sole purpose is to make editorial workflow easier by integrating it into WordPress. Trello, on the other hand, is a website that provides a way for teams to collaborate and organize their work.
We’re going to show how each step in an editorial workflow is done using each of them. For example, we’re going to show you how to assign a topic to an author in PublishPress and also in Trello. Do keep in mind that we are not going to delve deep into how each of these tools work and how to configure them. For more information about these tools, you can visit their respective documentation. This is the documentation for Trello and this is the documentation for PublishPress.
Now that we have everything ready, let’s begin.
Pitching or Brainstorming for a Topic
This is the first part of an editorial workflow. In this stage, the team gathers together and thinks about what kind of topic to cover. Sometimes, each member will pitch an idea and the editor and/or admin will take a look at the submitted topics, choose among them, and finally assign it to a writer or approve it and have the writers choose which of the approved topics they want to take.
In PublishPress, your team members can easily pitch an article by creating a new post, giving it a title and a filler content (typically, this filler content should be the description of the topic), setting its status to Pitch, and saving it.
In Trello, you have to create a “list.” You will have to create a list for Pitch, a list for In Progress, etc. The image below shows a Trello account with a board containing lists that were set up according to our editorial workflow.
Note: the “board” is the entire Trello workspace, the “lists” are the columns with titles like (as seen below) Announcements, Pitch, etc. and the “cards” are the draggable items inside the lists.
The cards are clickable, which will show more information:
Assign a Topic to a Writer
Once you have topics ready, it’s time to assign them to your writers or have them choose which topic to write.
Your writers can easily choose what topic they want to take in Trello. It’s also possible in PublishPress, though a bit more tedious. Let’s see how.
In PublishPress, assigning a topic can be easily done by creating a new post and choosing its status to Assigned as seen in the screenshot below.
Then, after that, change the author to the one you want the article to be assigned to and then click “save.” You can also add additional information about the article by scrolling down a little bit to the “Metadata” section in the right sidebar of the edit post screen.
In Trello, you can easily assign a topic to a writer by simply dragging their name to a card and then dragging the card under the Assigned or In-progress list (or whatever name you gave them, note that you have to set up these lists yourself) as seen in the screenshots below.
Your writers can also choose which topic they want to write by dragging their own badge to a topic and then dragging the topic card under the In-progress board.
Create the Article
The author that you assigned the article should now get a notification about it and he or she will begin writing it.
In PublishPress, the writer should update the post status to In Progress when he/she begins working on it. It will then notify the administrator and/or the editor-in-charge that the writer has started working on the article.
He or she can also choose to notify other people about the status change by ticking the checkboxes next to the names of other people that should know about it.
During the process, an editor, an admin, a fact checker, or another person can leave “Editorial Comments” to help refine the article while it is being written. This will allow the writer to improve or add additional content to the article before turning it in for final review.
Submitting the Article for Review
Once the writer finishes the article, it is submitted for review. Let’s take a look at how to mark an article for review in Trello and PublishPress.
In PublishPress, the writer will set the article’s status to Pending Review and will notify everyone associated with the article about the status change.
In Trello, the writer can easily change the status of an article just by dragging the card to the appropriate list, as seen in the screenshot below:
The writer can attach the document containing the article inside the card, either via link or via file upload.
Reviewing the Article
Once the article has been finished and sent for review, the editor or editors will then review the article to make necessary changes, if any. If there are many changes needed, the article can be moved back to In-progress status to either let the writer in charge of it revise it or let it be handed to another writer for improvement (it can also be put on hold if you want, which means the article will be set aside temporarily – this is excellent approach if you need a more important article or project done first). Aside from that, the editor (or someone else) might also do fact-checking and other related tasks to make sure that the article contains correct and accurate information.
Publishing the Article
This is the final step of the editorial workflow. All the hard work of the writers and the editors involved in an article is now ready for the world to see.
This is typically followed by additional steps that include promoting the article by building links pointing to it or sharing it across different social media platforms.
In PublishPress, all you have to do is to publish the article as you would in a normal WordPress install. You can publish it right away or schedule it for publishing.
Once it’s published, its status will automatically change to Published and will notify anyone associated with the article about the status change.
In Trello, the one who publishes the article must download the attached file from the card (it can be in a form like a link to a Google Docs document or a link to a file stored in a Dropbox folder) and upload and format it in WordPress.
● Integrated into WordPress. No need to create multiple accounts nor log in to multiple websites.
● Provide editorial comments directly to a post.
● Its editorial metadata can help customize extra data that is tracked for your content (such as required word count, date of the first draft, checklists, etc.)
● Custom User Groups (i.e. Copy Editors, Photographers, Graphic Designers).
● Can notify you when content is published or when someone leaves an editorial comment.
● Simple and straightforward.
● No Dropbox and Google Drive support.
● No easy way of assigning an article to someone
● Some excellent features require pro version (multi-author, content checklist, etc).
● Can be used not only for establishing an editorial workflow but for almost any kind of project management needs.
● Easier task assignment.
● Support for Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
● Perfect if you want your editorial workflow separate from your WordPress site.
● No version history. You cannot identify what exactly has been changed.
● Can be a bit counter-intuitive because it tries to be an all-around collaboration tool
Aside from Trello and PublishPress, you can use many other tools and plugins that can help you with your own editorial workflow process. You can use Google Drive – especially Google Docs – to make the writing process easier for both the writer and editor. There there are Google sheets that can be used as a place to let your writers pitch ideas or let them pick which topic to write about.
You can also combine Google Docs to other WordPress plugins that can help you create your very own editorial workflow. An example would be doing the editing externally and doing the assigning and planning inside WordPress using an editorial calendar plugin.